28 - 2007

Econ-quandary: School lunch

It’s back to school time here, and my daughter has returned to her (private) school for the year.

At her urging, we signed up for her to buy hot lunch every day. The cost? A painful $60 a month.

I had an e-mail conversation with a friend about this topic, and she jokingly threatened to “out” my lack of cheapness on this blog, so I figured I’d better do it first.

Of course, part of the focus of this blog is not to find the absolute cheapest way to do everything, every time, but to save as much money as possible where we can, so that we can spend where we feel it’s important.

So why am I paying $3 a day for my daughter’s lunch?

  • Laziness. Packing food for school is a hassle. At her age (first grade) they have a snack every day, so we have to pack that and her lunch. Meanwhile, Mr. Cheap is gone five days and two nights (working and grad school) and I work full-time — including early mornings and late nights — and time is of the essence.
  • Pickiness. Little Cheap is a picky eater. Make no mistake, she’ll eat a huge variety of food, and often most vegetables if we’re there to cheer her on. She has added a whole lot of new foods to her life in the last couple months, such as pickles, pepperoni, black pepper, and macaroni and cheese (just reintroduced after she way overdid it when she was 2 and ate it at least once a day).

    But she doesn’t eat a lot of kid staples. Like peanut butter. Ergo, no PB&J, although she notices that other children eat those sandwiches. This fact alone gives me a brain freeze that makes it highly painful to think of what to feed her for lunch.

  • Perplexity. Add to this that I am trying to wean us off most packaged foods, eliminating staples like individual pudding, individual yogurt, granola bars … yikes. I just got some pudding to mix up and send in a reusable container. I’ve tried sending my homemade yogurt in a reusable container, but it gets runny by lunchtime. Granola bars … I’ll whip some up when I have time, indeed I will.

However, her school offers a wonderful lunch buffet prepared by Chef Alain of a local restaurant, Crepes & Crepes. As I recall, it’s even organic.

When she eats at school, she comes home telling us she ate a whole roster of fruits and vegetables at lunch, selections from the salad bar — and maybe some noodles, some rice, some cornbread or a little chicken.

And, because the chef is French, sometimes they have bread with Nutella. Side note: When we were in Paris, we were delighted to see that the back label of a chocolate bar showed how to make a healthy afternoon snack — a slice of bread, a piece of chocolate, a glass of milk. Not exactly food pyramid, but I bet the children are happy.

And on that note, I suppose I am paying that much to keep my child happy — and to simplify life for myself. She is getting enough nutrition at lunch so that we don’t have to worry at home, although we will continue feeding her vegetables.

I’ll also confess that this is a luxury I’ve succumbed to because we have a single child. I wouldn’t want to fork over $120 for two children.

Or would I?

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